The African Union launched the Africa Day of Seas and Oceans on July 25th 2015 to raise awareness of the enormous challenges faced by the water sector and the need to harness the rich resources on the continent. The framework was developed to initiate actions on aquaculture and fishery, enhance marine tourism, mitigate human tricking and smuggling through the seas, provide an improved disaster risk management scheme, reduce illegal activities on the seas and oceans in the African borders, deliver enhanced maritime governance, and to boost environmental and biodiversity conservation and monitoring measures.

Africa, being home to many marine species and unique coastal ecosystems, welcomes the commemoration day dedicated to raising awareness about the significance of the continent's marine resources and the urgent need to protect and sustainably manage them. With a vast coastline stretching over thousands of kilometers, Africa is rich in marine biodiversity, providing livelihoods to millions and playing a crucial role in regulating our global climate. This significant environmental observation reminds us of the precious gift of nature and the responsibility we share in preserving it. On this occasion, all Africans must contribute their best to conserve their precious marine resources.

Despite several efforts to preserve her seas and oceans, the marine ecosystems in Africa are facing numerous challenges, which include but are not limited to overfishing, plastic and industrial waste pollution, climate change, oil exploration contamination, and habitat destruction, which have threatened the delicate balance of these underwater environments. This year's event serves as a reminder that it is essential to adopt sustainable fishing practices, reduce plastic waste migration to waterbodies, mitigate waste tire open combustion in some localities and develop policies that safeguard marine life. It calls for collaborative efforts from governments, communities, CSOs, and International and environmental organisations to protect Africa's seas and oceans. Investing in marine conservation and sustainable practices ensures that future generations can also enjoy the wonders of Africa's aquatic treasures.

A critical factor to consider in achieving this vital resource management goal is addressing the issue of community participation in water and sanitation service delivery. More than ever before, African leaders, civil societies and relevant agencies should embark on community engagement. The celebration is not designed to end at institutions of learning and government establishments; the real celebration should occur in rural communities with well-designed programs to communicate the Day of Seas and Oceans, especially in villages close to Waterbodies. Community participation is not only about decision-making but also about creating a sense of ownership and responsibility. When local communities actively participate in water and sanitation initiatives, they are more likely to take care of the resources and infrastructure, ensuring long-term sustainability.

Community participation is not only about decision-making but also about creating a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Workable ways to engage local people involve celebrating Africa Day of Seas and Oceans in rural communities on days with traditional or cultural connotations or relevance to nature protection. The message must be clear that our waterbodies are natural gifts that must be protected. Installation of conventional art that portray nature conservation could be placed in critical locations as a reminder to the community about nature conservation. In addition, communities that have engaged in any form that demeans natural resources should be engaged in a participatory manner in nature restoration projects; this can create a sense of responsibility after such a project by best practices on fishing, aquaculture, and nature conservation at an early stage. The promotion and engagement of communities on sustainable practices in critical areas that connect to the African seas and oceans should be given serious attention.

Let Africans join hands and take action to safeguard the environment, empower communities, and provide a brighter future for Africa's children. Together, we can make a meaningful difference and create a world where nature thrives, and every sea and ocean is a spectacle of the richness of nature without adulteration.

Article submitted by Emmanuel Chukwuma


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.